What Are Mustard Greens—and How Do You Cook With Them?

Everything you need to know about these versatile, peppery greens.

<p>Cheng Yuzheng/Getty Images</p>

Cheng Yuzheng/Getty Images

What are mustard greens, you ask? Mustard greens are a leafy, cruciferous vegetable in the same family as kale, cabbage, and arugula. Highly nutritious and flavorful, mustard greens are a versatile ingredient that can be cooked in many different ways, from raw to wilted or long-braised. Keep reading for a primer on all things mustard greens, including how to cook with them at home. 

Related: What’s the Difference Between Yellow Onions, Red Onions, and More?

What Are Mustard Greens?

A leafy vegetable from the Brassica family, mustard greens are a hardy, fast-growing crop that favors cooler temperatures. Mustard greens vary in color, from purple to dark green or red-tinged, depending on the variety. The leaves can be flat or frilly, but are typically broad, with ruffled edges. The stalks of larger mustard greens can be quite tough, while those with smaller leaves are usually much more tender. 

Mustard greens are popular in Southern cuisine, as well as some Asian cuisines. Flavor-wise, they have a very distinctive, peppery taste, akin to arugula. Some people compare the flavor to horseradish—punchy and spicy. Thanks to their assertive flavor, mustard greens stand up well to other strong flavors, such as garlic and onion.

Mustard Greens Health Benefits

Mustard greens are an extremely healthy vegetable, full of antioxidants, vitamins A, C, and K, and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium. They’re also a good source of fiber, which is important for digestion. 

Related: The 30 Healthiest Foods to Eat Every Day

How to Cook With Mustard Greens

When shopping for mustard greens, look for bunches with crisp, evenly-colored leaves. You can add raw mustard greens to salads for a peppery bite, but the taste may be too intense to use as the base of a salad. Cooking mustard greens mellows their flavor, and brings out their sweetness. The most popular Southern preparation is to braise the greens, often with ham, for a rich, savory dish. They can also be sautéed with aromatics, added to soups, and blitzed into pesto. For an Asian-inspired version, try adding sesame oil and soy sauce to the sautéed greens, along with ginger and garlic.

Mustard Greens Recipes

Now that you know what mustard greens are and how to cook with them, go ahead and experiment with them using these recipes as guidance.

Lentil Stew With Mustard Greens and Sausage

Christopher Baker
Christopher Baker

This healthy one-pot meal is perfect for weeknights, and packed with flavor thanks to Italian sausage and spicy mustard greens. The lentils add heft and protein, making the stew a complete meal.

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Mustard Greens With Ham

Photo: Diana Rattray Mustard Greens With Ham
Photo: Diana Rattray Mustard Greens With Ham

In the Southern tradition, these mustard greens are braised with ham shanks in a seasoned broth. Serve with cornbread for the full experience.

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Related: 25 Easy One-Pot Recipes That Won’t Leave You With a Mountain of Dishes

Sautéed Mustard Greens

Elise Bauer
Elise Bauer

This recipe couldn’t be simpler; just sauté onion and garlic and add mustard greens until just wilted. Finish by tossing the greens with sesame oil and seasoning to taste. With that, you have a quick, flavorful side dish that goes well with a range of meals.

Mustard Greens

Sautéed Southern Mustard Greens With Bacon

<p>The Spruce / Maxwell Cozzi</p>

The Spruce / Maxwell Cozzi

For another Southern preparation, try these mustard greens, elevated with bacon and onion. If you want a little spice, add a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes.

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